Life Festival 2015, Ireland 29th – 31st May Review

life-festival-2015

Having arrived on site in the 24th May Sunday, fellow volunteer Jonathan saved my skin by picking me up at Tyrrellspass and bringing me to the crew campsite at Belvedere House.  I travelled the Citylink Galway – Dublin commuter bus which came nearest to the festival site at 12 kilometres from Tyrrellspass in County Westmeath.  I was lucky to have the tent up in time before a torrential downpour attacked.  Weather was very different this year, it was tough sitting about the campsite and not being froze by the icy breeze, but myself and Jonathan braved it with a few cans of Guinness and some assorted sounds from Mr Ipod and Music Angel Friendz speaker.  Danyl another volunteer appeared later in the night and we were three.

More volunteers arrived on Monday and we were just hanging about the production area as spare hands when the call was needed to put up fencing or to change it around again. Foxy was the main man who would find us work and Lorcan too along with other crew, Foxy regaling us with funny stories of festivals gone past.  Over the following few days more familiar faces from last years build appeared.  We attempted a camp fire one or two nights to beat the cold but was curtailed by fair enough words from one of the Life bosses, Ronan.  Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty laid back days, many of the site crew were off doing their things around site, while we waited at the volunteers office for them to ask for help.  When we did get work the bloody weather would drive me spare, one minute it would be lashing rain and wind, which I would suitably prepare for and in the next minute it would be boiling hot and you would have to discard the layers again.  It was great to have showers this time and of course, Life festival treats its workers like royalty when it comes to being fed, two fairly decent meals a day and breakfast in the morning too.

I agreed to work an extra day as I would have been just milling around the site bored I suppose, I certainly wasn’t going back to Galway for the night and it would be nice to have the meals on Thursday too.  It has to be said though, Thursday was the hardest day and why wouldn’t it be, it was the final day of preparation before the festival kicked off the following day.  I done scrimming, helped the lads change the fences again, put heavy old carpets over the wires leading from the mixing desk to the main stage.  Man! I was glad when that day ended and I got that final meal, let the partying commence.

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The Sim Simma Stage.

Side FX Stage (Psy-Trance)

Side FX Stage (Psy-Trance)

The Bulmer's Stage (Main Stage from last year)

The Bulmer’s Stage (Main Stage from last year)

Heras Fencing, the festivals best friend.

Heras fencing, a festivals best friend.

The back of the Red Bull Arena Tent.

The back of the Red Bull Arena Tent.

Friday 29th May

I had no one on the agenda really to see this day or didn’t really know the line up bill for Friday, all I know was I kept running to the covered stages as rain showers were as frequent as the unz unz unz emitting from all the stages.  I was delighted that Aminah Dastan and her boyfriend. Philip Fahy were at the festival running a neat wee cafe in the psy trance area, so I hung about there drinking a few Americanos and had a delightful smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel.  The music blasting out of the Side FX stage was a dark psy trance, heavy beats, dark bass and twisted electronics with a healthy dose of new world mutants shaking their thang to the sounds.  I’m quite certain that the music was by Alien Angel as I dropped over to the Side FX about eight in the evening, but it was nice that the psy stage had a cover this time as psy trancers must have got very soaked last year.

I mostly just floated from stage to stage, next port of call was the Simma Down reggae and bass music area, the Liquid Tent re imagined in a more kind of Jamaican vibe. The Sim Simma stage a smaller version of the liquid tent and the Sim Simma 2 stage, a pick up van converted into another stage with an interesting array of speakers to each side of it and lovely little nooks and crannys to sit into away from the rain, the area also had a Body & Soul visitor from last year, the Glowhole installation and ping pong tables and seating areas each side of the brown tent stage.

I caught a few acts on the Sim Simma 2 stage as well, one of them my next door neighbour in the crew campsite, giving a fine mix of bass music, hip hop, reggae, jungle and drum n bass.  I’m not sure which is which, so going by the timetable, Slim Tim, Johnny Hammond, Docktah Irie.

I was trooping around with other fellow volunteers and some of the weekend ones too, such as the lovely Hannah, Ben & Laurie Purkiss, Danyl and his girlfriend.  At one point I trooped up to the volunteers office to collect my phone and I met James Fahy and Conor Dolan from Galway who had been waiting for Fran Hogan (our volunteer coordinator) to get their shift schedule for the weekend volunteering.

The rain came on quite heavy and I headed back to my tent for a rest and some shelter, staying for an hour or two before the heavy shower subsided.  Hannah called up after her shift and Ben and Laurie later where we had a few tins and some spliffs before venturing out to the arena after midnight or later, I’m not really too sure at this stage.  It was more likely about 1 or 2 am as I had some decent sounds myself that everyone seemed to enjoy anyway.

When we did hit the arena, parts of it became a soggy muddy mess, so we had to stick to the edge of the path so we didn’t get stuck in the quagmire of muck.  The rain eventually went off and we ventured to the Sim Simma 2 stage again catching a bit of the DJ Easy Yves set that had a sizeable crowd going loopy, I met Sam and Darragh there too, I think this was one of Darragh’s favourite areas as I would meet him throughout the weekend there.

We moved over to the brown tent stage where the closing act for Friday was the Sim Simma Soundsystem, an eclectic bunch of nutters and rappers who would take turns at toasting and trying to out toast each other, a hugely entertaining act and a nice selection of Jamaican inspired hip hop and bass heavy tunes.  We stayed until the very last note and the sun came out to usher in the dawn, although it was still fairly cold by all means.

We trooped off to catch the last set on the District 8 stage, RSCH14 who was playing a lovely ambient techno that could only complement the sunshine, the music still had a hard edge which kept you moving otherwise it was just too cold to just stand there.  When the music finished there, we all rushed over to the Hunt & Gather Circus tent which was blasting out Donna Summer’s I Feel Love and Georgio Moroder’s scintillating keyboard riff alas that was the final number of the last music for Friday.

Back to the campsite for a night cap or morning cap tin, a blether and some sounds before we all hit the sack.

Saturday 30th May.

Woke up and headed over to the Charcoal Grill for a steak burger and a coffee, for me anyway this is a handy breakfast if nothing else tickles your fancy.  headed into the arena about five in the evening to do a bit of exploring or simply to shelter from rain storms.  headed to the Side FX to say hello to Aminah and found that the delightful Deirdre Mullins from Galway was there too to give them a hand at the cafe, Aminah gave me a coffee on the house which was well appreciated.  I soaked up some of the sounds from the stage courtesy of Dubtek and Jimajama who followed after.  Sometimes I like to go up close and watch the DJ in action, the music was pumping and in this corner of the world this is exactly what this audience wanted.  I suppose psytrance works as a form of improvisation that gets phased and twisted, stops/starts and another synth sequence mixed in.  Like I’ve said before though, I can take only twenty minutes normally of this stuff and I have to move on or else it just sounds all the same.  A psytrance artist I could watch no problem for a full set though has to be Sphongle, I have wonderful memories of his 2008 set at the 2nd Galway edition of Life.

Went off to the Sim Simma area again where luck would have it, one of my old Life/Body&Soul bosses, Mikey Joyride was playing a set in the Simma brown tent stage, it was a reunion of a sort as the last festival I was at was Electric Picnic 2014 where I caught Mikey’s set at the Body & Soul Upstage tent and they played Dawn Penn’s No,no,no one of my favourite reggae tracks of all time.

Back to the campsite to find my timetable, I don’t get this, the timetables available to the volunteers only have three stages, where are the other five, that does not make any sense. I’m also starting to get tired of the trekking about, its become laboured now because the mud is spreading and starting to get into my tent, my wellies and boots a mess.  There are lots of hilly bits around the site so I’m feeling myself getting breathless sometimes, my tobacco habit not helping the situation.  I initially had a full plan to catch Warp stalwart Luke Vibert, then Panthu De Prince and Squarepusher on the main stage but tiredness caught up with me.

In my second visit to the arena I made for the Red Bull tent to catch Luke Vibert for the first time.

Luke Vibert – Red Bull Stage 8.30 – 10 pm

Luke Vibert is more housey than Aphex Twin but just as good, although both have played together a long time Luke had a wholly original sound that was fresh and delightful, he actually looked like Richard with his ponytail, Chris Cunningham looks like him too so they must have come from some Aphex cloning factory.  Saying that, Vibert’s music was lovely and bouncy with beautiful clean synths more akin the the Selected Ambient Works vol 1 vibe rather than the darker brain dancey stuff that comes out of Warp and there was a fair crowd in the Red Bull arena to catch his set.  I was well impressed with his music and I hope to catch him some time soon again.

I was getting hungry again and decided for a pizza from the blue bus, half the bus packed by people with no intention of buying food and smoking in the area, the pizza though was delicious.  I stared out the window at the advancing rain which was picking up again and considered setting my alarm for the Panthu and Squarepusher sets and having a lie down in the tent.  I went back over to the Red Bull Stage to catch a bit of High Contrast’s set which was pretty captivating, power drum n bass and jungle, I started to get a sore back so reverted to plan A to have a wee lie down in my tent.

When the alarm went to go off to the main stage I heard the rain smattering fiercely off my tent, figured, well I seen Squarepusher back in 2012 at the Picnic, went fuck it, was nice and snug in my sleeping bag so went back to sleep and didn’t wake up till six in the morning so the Saturday schedule was done.  Laid awake for an hour or two and the sun decided to come out so went for a wander and got the munchies again so had a chicken burger and wandered about with my sounds around the main campsite meeting folk I worked with in the 2012 Life festival breakdown there.  Went back to my tent and crashed out again.

Sunday 31st May.

When I woke again its was off for the coffee and breakfast wrap from the Smoothie stall, it has to be said, the choice was quite limited for takeaway stalls at the festival, no Pieministers or Wok n’ Rolls, but some of the ones there were grand enough.

Sunday made for a more balanced day where I took in a lot more acts, I also found when you got to really muddy bits I used the hillsides to escape the muck, it was handy for the aul call of nature too occasionally.

I had a great chat with the security guard Abdul who was stationed at the crew camp, we talked about the music we both liked and festivals and how they reflected the counter-culture that we grew up with, I think Abdul enjoyed the chat too.  I think he is working Body & Soul festival too so I hope to meet up with him there or I hope he gets the job working at the crew camp area.

On with the music then.  Into the arena I go and  make straight for the Sim Simma area for a sit down in one of the sheltered areas near the Sim Simma 2 stage, seemingly a joint rolling haven with the appropriate music at hand courtesy of Manma Saor and some of the Sim Simma DJs after that.  I wandered to the other side of the arena to Side FX to say hello to Aminah and co and listen to a bit of psytrance madness by Energy Collective.

The weather being a bit mellower today I stayed in the arena longer.  I caught a bit of the Dirty Dubsters live set on the main stage who had a good reggae/rap vibe going on, it looked like some of the rappers from the Sim Simma Soundsystem were involved too and it was a seriously good tonic for this afternoons proceedings, energised Jamaican hip hop infused jungle and drum n bass a good kickstart for Sunday.  I took a walk towards the Bacardi stage as I hadn’t really looked at that area properly because the weather had been so awful most of the time.

DJ Nu-Mark – Bacardi Stage 4,30 – 6pm.

DJ Nu-Mark blew me away with his turntablism skills and he had a great rapport with the crowd, the sun came out and when the sun comes out in the lakeside area with no wind, its a gorgeous place to be.  Nu-Mark was playing some disco, funk and soul classics, some of which were a bit cheesy but he put his own slant over it all and I love folk who can do the scratch hip hop thing so well, kinda like Grandmaster Flash.  I found out after that Nu-Mark is also a member of Jurassic 5, so will check them out at the Picnic in September.

Went wandering back towards the Red Bull stage as I wanted to see who was in there.

Derrick Carter – Red Bull Arena 5.30 – 7 pm

Carter was giving it socks and I was sure I recognised him before, I realised he was one of the interviewees in the Channel 4 dance documentary Pump up the Volume, I also recognised him from one of the video streams from Tommorrowland festival last year.  He played some pretty funky house music and he really looked like he was digging the atmosphere in the tent.  No wonder everyone was going crazy Carter is one of the Chicago House masters of the dance scene, he has been around when the term was invented, brilliant stuff.

I took a quick trip over to the Psytrance stage for a coffee and took in a bit of the DJ Digital Species who plays a similar mangled psychedelic noise like Parasense from last year.  I wandered to the next stage, the main stage to see who was starting up there.

The Underachievers – Main Stage 6.30 – 8 pm.

The Underachievers would be what you would describe as a sort of psychedelic Rap, there was three of them with another on the beats, I loved the long drone bass beats that went behind the raps.  Issa Gold, well at least I think that is his name introduced himself to the audience by saying he was beat up by six Gardai on his way to the gig.  The music was interesting nonetheless, psychedelic  rap wouldn’t be the top of my listening priorities but I found it interesting listening to it in a live setting.

At this point I made a mad dash to the welfare tent, I had been coughing all weekend probably a bit of a festival cold, but had ran out of my ventolin inhaler during the week working at the festival so went to the welfare tent to see if I could get the use of a nebuliser or a spare inhaler.  The doctor gave me a blast of a 12 hour ventolin inhaler which done the trick nicely.  I had an interesting chat with him and thankfully there wasn’t too many casualties during the weekend, he told me that his colleagues were stationed at Forbidden Fruit and Slane Castle too.  When I left the welfare tent I felt like a spritely teenager again.  Up to the campsite for a little sit down and then back down to the arena to catch a bit of Nas.

Nas – Main Stage 8 pm – 9 pm.

I loved Nas’s set, I wouldn’t be too informed on the rap thing but I found Nas’s rapping to be crystal clear and articulate, it sort of reminded me of Outkast at the picnic last year. The man just oozed confidence too and not before long I’m going to procure myself a copy of the album he was showcasing or revisiting, Illmatic.  Nas probably had the biggest crowd of the festival and is a new type of genre for Life festival to be booking, usually the festival sticks strictly to dance and reggae music.  So a healthy thing for the festival to incorporate different styles of music which still loosely fall under the dance music umbrella.  And thankfully no umbrellas were needed to watch this performance.

Another trip back to the campsite, I might add the purpose most of the time travelling back and forth to the campsite was to have a can of Guinness as I couldn’t take them into the arena till 12 am and I had a whack of them to tear into for the weekend, so waste not want not as they say ‘hic’.  On my way back to the arena my senses were arrested by a wild sound coming out of the Red Bull tent.

Motor City Drum Ensemble – Red Bull Arena 9 pm – 10 pm.

MCDE had a serious sound going down and the many hands in the air pumping testified that this was what Life festival is about.  Intense funky techno influenced by the Detroit sound, most of the volunteers I was working with were in here going loopy this was one of their main draws or must see acts and I can understand why, infectious funky grooves not only influenced by house and techno itself but of disco, the funk of Funkadelic and Parliament and others of a similar ilk, I would have stayed for more but I nearly forgot about going to the main stage to see SiriusModeselektor, one of my main draws.

SiriusModeselektor – Main Stage 9.30 – 11 pm. 

Woo hoo back to the corklinkity bloinkity music of Modeselektor, I loved their set in 2013 at Life, this time Sirius is added to the group making it SiriusModeselektor and guess what their music is still lovingly corclinkity bloinkity music, they are like nothing else on earth. Bouncy crazy electronica of the highest order and they also have bags of zany humour too. I love some of this nutty electronic stuff coming out of Germany, I was so happy to catch Moderat last year too in Dublin.  I don’t know anything about the new album or if they have an new album out but boy, they are serious, serious party and good time music and the visuals displayed in the backdrop were stunning and vivid.  They are masters of most electronic genres and they even paid a tribute to one of their heroes, Kraftwerk, another splendid nutty electronic band.  I can never get enough of this music, they could have played to eight in the morning and I would still be there frothing to the sounds.

After that I had my fill for another while at the arena so back to the campsite for a rest and a Guinness and I planned to go back in after with the rest of the tins and visit the stages that were still running.

By the time I went back into the arena at least four of the stages had shut down, Red Bull, Main stage, Psytrance stage and the Bulmer’s stage were dormant and quiet, so off I troop to Simma Down area, on the way there was some beautiful ambient electronica pumping out of the District 8 stage which I stopped to look at for a while, I lost my bearings as regards the time so I’m not too sure who I was looking at either Conor Hanson b2b Breen and the end of their set or the starting of Rohad’s set but I loved it all the same.  I wanted something again a bit more mellower than the BPM I was listening too, so up the hill I go and down to the other side to the centre of Simma Down.

Ben Bix and then Manma Saor – Sim Simma 2.  12 am – 2 am 

I mostly finished my arena excursion here to the sounds of Jamaican hip hop, grime, dubstep and jungle, many people still floating about not wanting the party to end.  Met some of the volunteers here going strong still and a nice selection of tunes, a nice way to blow out the weekend and it wasn’t raining, so all good.  When the music winded up we snuck over to the District 8 stage and caught the last five minutes of Rohad’s set, a few moaning about the stages closing at 2 instead of 3 am, but hell tis a lot better than last year when it closed at 12.

Back to the campsite for the night, I just sat in my tent with the soundsystem on and finished what was left of my carry out, on my way to the toilets I met Hannah and another friend in the tent beside, I hadn’t seen her since Saturday morning and I wondered where she had disappeared too.  It turns out she was looking for me on Saturday night but that was the time I went to the land of the nod and had that early night.

Monday 1st June and the fecking rain and wind is back.

So Saturday’s weather came back to revisit me on Monday morning, I snuck up to Ben and Laurie’s tent to share some of my Guinness or more so to get rid of the extra weight from my bag.  In their tent it was dry in either end but in the middle a puddle was forming from the shitty weather twas a sight to behold.  I said my goodbyes for if I didn’t leave then I would be lumbered for another night there.

The last I remember was walking all the way out to the roadside outside Belvedere House and hitching for about 40 minutes in the wind and rain, god, it was such a miserable day. Luckily one of the musicians who had been playing in the Simma Down area picked me up and dropped me into Tyrrellspass with fifteen minutes to spare to catch the connection back to Galway in time to play my session.

Life festival thank you for another great edition, sorry readers I didn’t have a camera this year so I never had any videos or snaps to upload to the blog, my many thanks to Danyl Hartshorn for the use of his photos and the youtubers who’s clips I nicked for the blog. Thanks to Ronan and Lorcan for the wonderful supply of food tokens, Foxy for the festival stories and all the other crew and Fran Hogan for making sure we were all safe and sorted and especially Abdul the crew camp security guard who I had great discussions with about counter-culture and music, till Life 2016 all the best, roll on Body & Soul 2015.

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About niallmcquaid

Music lover and musician. Love writing about music and events, I am a keen writer.
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4 Responses to Life Festival 2015, Ireland 29th – 31st May Review

  1. Tracy says:

    Love reading this and hearing how Life went for you 🙂 it was my first ever festival and I was volunteering and it, the best way to met people, the people you work with become family 🙂 looking forward to hearing how sunday went for you

  2. Great stuff Niall!!
    Fair play for being able to put the whole experience into a coherent sequence, and the write-up gives a really good impression of the festival overall.

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